Clashes with police set stage for march today
Organisers of the July 1 protest march believe public anger at the police handling of yesterday's demonstrations against President Hu Jintao's visit will draw even more people to the march - which they already expect will be the biggest in years.
The march will be observed by between eight and 12 members of the Independent Police Complaints Council as the watchdog sends observers on to the front line for the first time. The team will visit the police command centre before walking the route from Victoria Park to the government headquarters in Admiralty.
Eric Lai Yan-ho, of march organiser the Civil Human Rights Front, believes the participation will exceed expectations after police used pepper spray on demonstrators in Wan Chai and detained an Apple Daily reporter who asked Hu a question about the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
'I think the citizens will be angrier after seeing how police handled protesters and media,' Lai said.
The Hong Kong Journalists' Association also urged reporters to take part in today's protest.
As Hu called for 'unity' inside, there was chaos outside the Convention and Exhibition Centre last night as hundreds of protesters calling for an investigation into the suspicious death of June 4 dissident Li Wangyang pushed at barricades that surrounded them. Police used pepper spray at least three times.
At least two protesters were arrested for disorder, including League of Social Democrats vice-chairman Avery Ng Man-yuen. After some protesters broke through barricades, more officers were called in and the designated protest zone expanded.
Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, handed a petition with 100,000 signatures to Liu Wenda - a representative of Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. The petition called for a fair investigation into the death of Li, who was found hanged from a hospital window.
'If Hu has said he wants to come to Hong Kong to walk around and take a look, then he should come here and look at our banners and listen to our voices, because all he is seeing now is the fake Hong Kong,' Lee said. 'This is the real Hong Kong.'
Police Senior Superintendent Nelson Cheng Yiu-mo said officers had used minimal force to restore public order and said some protesters had behaved dangerously by pushing at barricades. Officers used pepper spray only after repeated warnings, he said.
Democratic Party lawmakers invited to a gala dinner with Hu last night said they were unable to get close to the president as they were ordered not to leave their seats. League lawmaker 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, who took the unprecedented step of donning a shirt and tie for the occasion, was denied admission because he was late.
Meanwhile, a petition truck covered in messages to Hu was blocked from entering Kai Tak during Hu's visit to the former airport. After an hour-long stand-off, the truck's drivers tried to depart to follow Hu's motorcade, but was blocked when police demanded to see the driver's licence and search the vehicle.
Alliance vice-chairman Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong accused police of 'dirty tricks'. Police said the truck was stopped for security reasons.